msb ~038 “Let’s hear it for the vague blur!”

“Let’s hear it for the vague blur!”

Philip K Dick: no vague blur

I consumed Philip Dick’s novels by the handful as a teenager: just part of my science fiction diet. Many of his stories sit well with that other fare, but the shock of A Scanner Darkly, VALIS and The Divine Invasion comes into sharper relief away from the glare of rayguns, hyperdrives and aliens. Dick wrote his experience, not ‘fiction’. In BBC Radio’s Great Lives, actor Michael Sheen discusses Dick’s influence on him: “the moment where the central character begins to discover that maybe the reality he’s taking for granted is not what’s going on, maybe there’s something else going on behind it. That is a very frightening moment.”

For Dick, ‘reality’ was the world turning into a simulacrum. “You no longer have an experience, you have a version of an experience, a filtered down, dissipated version.” Humans divorced from nature are a vague blur: simulated, scrambled versions. Scanner Darkly‘s narcotics agent — so far undercover he must be shielded from view by a scramble suit — no longer knows whether he’s just surveilling himself, or what reality he’s representing to a local public meeting. ‘”Let’s hear it for the vague blur!”, the host said loudly, and there was mass clapping.’

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